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COVID-19 Claims Legendary Old School Nigerian Pop Star …Kills OFEGE’s Comeback Dream

Nigeria has lost a part of her Pop history to COVID-19 with the death of Paul Alade, a member of the Ofege Band that ruled the airwaves in the early 70s.

NewsmakersNG learnt that Alade died in Oakland, California, where he was a teacher.

Alade was the bassist in Ofege, the musical band formed by teenagers from St. Gregory’s College, Obalende, Ikoyi, in Lagos. It has remained Nigeria’s most outstanding school boys’ band of all time.

They recorded several evergreen songs including Whizzy Ilabo, Ofoge, and Burning Jungle.

The boys, who recently announced on Facebook that they were planning a comeback, were largely influenced in the 70s by the guitar solos of Carlos Santana, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Francis Rossi, and the criss-cross rhythms of Osibisa. They were also influenced at home by the music of ‘BLO’ (Berkley Jones, Laolu Akins and Mike Odumosu), ‘Monomono’ (led by Joni Haastrup), The Funkees, and Ofo The Black Company.

The band’s debut album, ‘Try and Love’, recorded while the boys were still in high school (average age of 16) reportedly sold over a million copies. It was originally recorded and released in 1973. Due to their vibrant combo of sweet harmonies, hooks and fuzz, they would become one of the most legendary Nigerian groups of all time, with expressive sales and national stardom.

They recorded four albums before breaking up in 1978.

Ofege Band was made up of: Melvin Noks – Lead Vocals/Rhythm; Paul Alade on Bass Guitar; Mike Meme on Drums; Soga Benson – Lead/Solo Guitar; Felix Ijeh on Rhythm/Tenor Guitar; Dapo Olumide on Keyboards, and Felix Inneh was the Percussionist.

On April 11, the band posted this message on its Facebook page: “To all fans, we hope you and your family are keeping safe and adjusting to the new social life by physical social distancing. Our hearts and sympathy to lives lost.

“Isolation is necessary, staying away from one another until we have the green light. Don’t be bored or lonely, look around you we trust you have lots of unattended stuff to attend to, utilize your time wisely this time by refreshing self. Keep a journal if you must, or share your thoughts with experience to this new life with Ofege on Facebook fan page.

“Remain strong. We’re that close to being present with the Classics, and the New release as legal issues we have must be attended to prior.”

Here’s a recollection of the Ofege days written by one of the band members, Melvin Noks:

The school was St Gregory’s College (Lagos-Nigeria) in the early 1970s. In class 1 my friend Paul Alade and myself, Melvin Ukachi Noks, had passion only for music. While other students were doing regular school activities, during which we always secluded ourselves twanging away on our box guitars, Paul on bass, I on rhythm, rehearsing my composed and written songs.

There was the school’s band with electric amplified instruments we would beg to be let into, borrowing their drummer who was bluffy all the time. In one of the times with the musical instruments, a shy, quiet, strange and completely unknown and unseen classmate of ours appeared from nowhere and sat on the drums and played. I was bowled over at the end of the song. I asked him, “Who are you, what’s your name and where have you been?” It was how Mike Meme automatically became the drummer of the ”Hitch Hykers,” a name Paul and I called ourselves. This went on till class 3 in 1973 when I needed a keyboardist and handpicked another classmate, Dapo Olumide, taught him the keyboard and kept him. By this time, we had got to class 4 in 1974 and I had handpicked a junior member in class 3 to make us 5 as the lead guitarist. He was Eelix Ijeh.

At the end of a good rehearsal, I talked to my boys and said, now that we are approaching final year and exit from the school, I would like us to approach a recording studio and appeal to them to record us and wax for us 5 copies they could give us each as souvenirs. At the studios they asked us the name of our band, as ”Hitch Hykers” was old fashioned, what should we tell them? Mike Meme retorted “Ofege.” “Good,” I remarked. From now on, “Ofege” is our name, our game and our way. Recording studio here we come!

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